Deconstruction: part 2

I’d like to think that there’s always a right way to respond to things.

I mean, really wouldn’t it be nice if Life came with instructions? You’d always know how to best handle everything thrown at you. You could make absolute rules, and then no judgment would be subjective. Everything has a place, it’s good or bad, and you either agree or disagree.

Living in that extreme polarity was only sustainable for me for a short period of time—maybe 3 years before it started breaking down. And now on this end of things, there are a lot of things that require a lot more context in order for me to decide if they’re helpful or not. Resistance is one of those ideas.

When certainty starts to break down, black-and-white rules and predictability feel like the elusive good night’s sleep in the midst of a months-long season of insomnia. You crave it, you knew what it felt like when you used to take it for granted, but now…it feels like you may never know the feeling of “rested” again.

This is exactly why fundamentalism exists, isn’t it? To be sure of exactly where everything falls. Good-and-bad, right-and-wrong: orderly, tidy boxes for every thought, behavior, and emotion you’ll encounter.

Nashville was the first space I decided to take those boxes apart. I’d built these castles out of all my boxes—it was immaculate. Everything had a place and there was nothing that could fly at me that the Bible couldn’t make sense of within a creation—fall—redemption—new creation narrative. (If that means nothing to you, for the love of every free-thinking individual, I’d suggest you keep it that way.)

I carried flattened boxes of belief into Nashville with me, and for a long time I just stared at them. I had no desire to rebuild anything out of them. I couldn’t ignore them. But there they sat, at the forefront of my mind, reminding me of the majestic faith monument they used to construct.

Those boxes went everywhere with me. The more space someone gave me in a conversation, the more of them I laid out for inspection (i.e. more staring). Some people have baggage, I had empty boxes.

What I learned in the coming weeks and months is that the more I resisted my emotional response to my deconstruction, the more the emotions won by default. 

See my resistance to my own emotions was just fear. Fear of fear. Fear of being uncomfortable. Fear of pain. Resistance to reality creates a false narrative of an enemy, and when the thing you resist lives within yourself, you become your own enemy. Suuuuper fun stuff.

In hindsight, it’s no wonder I drank myself silly so many nights as an escape. Where else can you go if the enemy is within?

Once I hit a breaking point (read: soul-crushing heartbreak where you wake up crying and can’t remember what it feels like to feel happy), I stopped running from my real emotional experience. I mean, let’s be clear: my emotions basically had to back me into a corner in order for me to stop running, but once I did, I learned the practice of acceptance.

Rather than resisting my own grief, sadness, loneliness, and fear, I allowed them. I welcomed them. I recognized them and validated them as important voices. My emotions were no longer threats to be avoided, they were valuable assets to my experience. And as I accepted them, they sort of stopped lashing out and threatening my well-being. 

Once I heard what they had to say, they stopped yelling. I had space to allow them, and to just be.

Once I stopped wasting my energy on resisting and fighting them, I actually found that I had the stability and strength to love them, listen to them, and learn from them. And then I could move on.

Acceptance and grace for myself, just as I was, gave me the footing to start to regain control.

But this whole resistance vs. acceptance thing—it plays out interpersonally as well. It just gets a little more messy.

I think we can agree that the way to change anyone’s mind is never with resistance. No one’s ever given up a belief or core conviction because someone of an opposing mindset outwitted them in an argument, not truly. Resisting another person’s opinion or action is never going to bring about peace. Resistance just ushers in fear.

Think about it, if you hold your arm out and someone comes by and pushes it in one direction, you’ll resist that movement by what? By pushing back.

And when we’re pushing back, we’re on the defensive. We feel we’ve been attacked, and we have to defend our ground, our stance, our identity, whatever.

When we’re on the defensive, we’re driven by fear.

That’s what’s so tricky about resistance. If we’re reacting to someone else’s fear and we’re on the defensive, we’re continuing a fear-based disagreement.

Now this is where the beautiful gray area comes into play. Because acts of resistance, protests, and civil disobedience are incredibly important for creating momentum for change by creating awareness and inviting more people into the conversation. But no one’s mind was ever changed because they were protested or resisted.
Resistance has its rightful place, but its influence reaches far beyond the individual.
Resistance, just like most things life has to offer us, is neither good nor bad. It just is.
And when we stop swinging from right-to-wrong, extreme-to-extreme, we find the delicate balance of holding the helpful and not helpful parts of resistance together.

So I see signs like this one, and I smile. It’s colorful, it’s empowering, it’s inspiring. Love is the hero and fear is to be kept at bay and rendered powerless.

But I’ll tell you, if I’ve learned anything, I’ve learned that disempowering an emotion only means that when it regains its strength and its voice, it will fight back with a greater vengeance.

Yes, resist fear. Resist the fear-of-other around us in our country. Resist the kind of fear that moves in a culture to make it feel threatened by anyone who looks, thinks, or believes differently. Resist the fear around you, because someone else’s fear does not deserve to shape your experience or anyone else’s.

But if the fear is inside you…you mustn’t resist it, dear friend. 
If you resist it, it will fight back. It will get stronger, and it will only overcome you and cause pain in the lives of innocent people around you.

Listen to your fear, and be honest with yourself. 

Why do you feel threatened by someone else’s moral freedom just because they disagree about how to live their day-to-day life? What will it cost you to let them live according to different standards?

Why do you feel threatened by the uprising voice of a historically oppressed people? What will it cost you to acknowledge that they’ve been mistreated? What will it cost you to agree that their voices—and their lives—matter?

Will it cost you power? Money? Status? Moral superiority?

Accept that those are things you desire. It’s not wrong to desire those things. It’s not even wrong to be afraid. But it is unloving to be controlled by the fear and the desire.

Accept your fears, disarm them, and keep them quietly by to remind you that they are a part of your experience, but they do not define you.

And as for the fears of others? It requires more discernment. 

If you hope to see an individual change and overcome fear, you can help to expose their fear by asking thoughtful questions.

But when fear is celebrated, when fear is in office, and fear is the climate—we have to resist. We can never allow the fear of others to cost another person their opportunity to live. Then we enter with an assist to all things that foster love.

If you need an example, this is all why, at the end of the day, I still follow this guy.